We had the good fortune of connecting with Brooke Odle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brooke, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m from New York City. Growing up, my family instilled the importance of education and helping our community. I was initially interested in medicine. I was deciding between pediatrics and physical medical and rehabilitation. Although many colleges had pre-med programs, I would still need to pick a major. When I was looking into colleges and learning about the programs they offered, I came across biomedical engineering. Graduates had careers that allowed them to do different tasks- like conducting research, working with clinicians, and developing technology to help people with disabilities. It connected with my interests of helping others and allowed me to be close to the medical field. I liked math and thinking creatively, so engineering was a good fit for that as well. Upon selecting biomedical engineering as my major, I selected biomechanics as my concentration area. I became interested in understanding how the human body moves, how to help the body recover from injury, and developing assistive technology. Today, I do work that reinforces the values I grew up with. I’m a professor at Hope College, an undergraduate institution. I teach several engineering courses and work with students in my research laboratory. We’re studying ways to monitor and reduce risk of injury associated with manual patient-handling tasks.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a professor at an undergraduate institution, I teach, conduct research with, and mentor undergraduate students. I am excited about teaching students- whether it is in the classroom or my research laboratory. I enjoy engaging students to help them develop their critical thinking skills and tap into their creativity, so I mix things up and try new methods. I am most proud when I see my students grow as engineers, further developing their skills in the classroom or in the research laboratory. I want my students to succeed and it is an honor to be a part of their journey.
In order to become a professor, I had to undergo several years of additional education and training. I attended graduate school to earn a Master’s and a Doctorate in Biomedical Engineering. I also completed postdoctoral training, to gain more research experience and prepare to run my own research laboratory. I also completed a faculty fellowship for one year, to gain undergraduate teaching experience. I certainly had my ups and downs on the journey, but my faith in God, family, friends, and good mentors helped me navigate the obstacles in my way. Some of the ways they helped me included getting critical feedback on my work, opportunities to present my work and connect with others in the field, and supporting me as I learned new theories and techniques. My journey has taught me the importance of building a community of support as well as having a network of mentors, sponsors, and advocates. As they poured into me, I made sure that I poured into my peers and those coming behind me by investing in mentoring.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I like taking family and friends downtown to visit the farmer’s market and to try different restaurants. Holland State Park is nice for beach days or watching the sunset in the evenings. If we’re really feeling adventurous, we’d go to a larger city nearby, like Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, for a day of fun.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my family and to all of my mentors- past and present. I wouldn’t be on this journey without their support.
Photos in research laboratory (pointing at computer screen and me with students) should be credited to Stephen Herppich